Father’s Day Special: What Do Dads Want in Their Next Vehicle?

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A dad driving with his son/Image Credit: StockSnap from Pixabay 

Contributing Author: Craig Fitzgerald

A month ago, just ahead of Mother’s Day, we asked a group of moms what their desires were for their next car. What did they like about their current vehicle? What was pushing them to change? Were they interested in something from the same brand? How about the prospect of an EV?

We got great answers, so we figured that before Father’s Day, we’d ask the same series of questions with a group of dads. The answers couldn’t have been more different.

If there was one thing that moms were interested in, it was safety. Nearly every one of the 20 or so moms who responded to our questions put vehicle safety as one of their top must-haves in their next car.

The dads? Not so much. We got 21 responses, and out of those, just two mentioned the word “safe.” What rose immediately to the top for dads was fuel mileage. Yes, the cost of fuel has risen to the point where even people who don’t care about it suddenly care about it, but the price of fuel wasn’t radically different a month ago when we polled moms.

Paradoxically, though, while dads are interested in fuel economy, their thoughts are dominated by pickup trucks and SUVs. It’s not surprising to see an uptick in interest in hybrid and BEV pickups.

Tony From Massachusetts

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning/Image Credit: Ford

Tony Cerulle is in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and he’s one of the owners of Boston Duck Tours, which runs a fleet of amphibious vehicles that run around the city before splashing into the Charles River. He has the same to say about the 3.5-liter EcoBoost in his F-150, but he says electric power has him interested. “If the Lightning was available when I bought my truck in 2019 I probably would’ve bought one.” A truck is a necessity for his hobbies and his work. “It’s great that any awful smells from engines or transmissions don’t become part of my interior like back when I had an S-10 Blazer,” he says.

Kris From Texas

2008 Honda Ridgeline RTL/Image Credit: Honda

“In my younger days, when my kids were little, I admired old Ford Rancheros,” says Kris Olsen from Richardson, Texas. “These days I have a Gen I Honda Ridgeline, which is like a four-door Ranchero. It is really adaptable to most of the situations I typically need it to do.”

Kris says he gets a lot of “not a real truck” criticism for the Ridgeline, but he ignores it. “If I need something really heavy hauled, I have an E350 with a Powerstroke diesel. But the Honda is so unrelentingly adequate no matter what I typically need, the big van sits unused much of the time. Versatility is what I aspire to in a Dadmobile. One trick ponies need not apply.”

Dan From Massachusetts

Dan Quint is in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and works as a commercial pilot. It’s not surprising that the airlines have influenced what he’s looking for. “I would like to see an airline-seat-style fold-down tray table with 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch scupper rails around it for the little ones in the backseat,” he says. “Also, in-seat USB charging capabilities that allow someone to put an iPad on that tray table and plug it in to charge,” adding that it’s frustrating to have to use full accessory power just to charge a mobile device when it could be charging in the car when it’s off.

Michael From Oregon

2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500/Image Credit: Chevrolet

In Oregon, Michael Hazen is a parent of one who’s now driving his own vehicle, so he’s less concerned about hauling kids around than he is about hauling other stuff. “I seem to always need to go to the dump because my home seems to just generate this junk,” he says. He’s also over 6’3” tall, so the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado worked for him. “I fit in it,” he says. “It drives like a luxury car, but I can put nasty [stuff] in the back.” He complains about the fuel economy, though, to the point where he’s strongly considering an EV for his next vehicle. “It is the way of things to come,” he says.

David From Oregon

2022 Ram 3500/Image Credit: Ram

David Hamblin is another Oregon resident with a truck. He drives a semi for a living, and totes smaller kids around with a 2021 Ram 3500 Mega Cab that he special-ordered. “It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted,” he says. “I’ve owned it for just about a year and not one day have I regretted owning it. My only regret is I don’t get to drive it enough. This truck is easily my favorite vehicle of all time. I love it so much I’m considering buying another one but this time it would be a Power Wagon.”

Terry From North Carolina

2022 Toyota Sienna XLE/Image Credit: Toyota

Terry Shea – who spends his days as the Director of Operations for Hemmings Auctions and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina – is in full-on kid mode with three children ranging from 12 to 17. “Our main family ride is a 2013 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD that we bought new in 2014 when there was such a thing as a leftover,” he says. “It does everything well, used to be Lexus quiet, but at 150,000+ miles it remains quieter than the Honda Odyssey we replaced. Super comfortable for long drives, super accommodating for loading with just about anything this side of manure or mulch. Gas mileage is notably better than pickups of the same era and comfort for the whole family on road trips is unrivaled.”  He says that his only complaint is that removing the second-row captain’s chairs “involves me cursing while throwing out my back.” He’s not thinking about an EV at this point, mostly because of the Sienna update. “The new Siennas are all hybrids and get substantially better mileage, so that would be a no-brainer,” he says.

Jay From Massachusetts

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV/Image Credit: Chevrolet

Most of the dads we talked to seemed interested in hybrids, but weren’t quite ready to make the jump to a battery electric vehicle yet. Jay Condrick – who owns Boston Mobile Tire in Westwood, Massachusetts – definitely is. “The next car has to be an EV for us. The reduced pricing on the Bolt EV suddenly makes a new one a reasonable consideration,” he says. He’s still going to keep a fun ICE-powered car around, but he’s not going to drive it as much. “It’s currently a BMW E90 330i but a Z3 or a Miata is what I’d prefer.”

Keith From Connecticut & Chris From North Carolina

2022 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody/Image Credit: Dodge

Just like the moms, though, you can’t pigeonhole the dads. Keith Griffin in Hartford, Connecticut, expressed interest in the Charger SXT. “We need something roomier than our 2008 Mazda5, with good trunk space yet still fun to drive,” he says. Chris Mikaelian in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, is in a similar boat. “I want a performance vehicle with a MANUAL transmission. I’d like it to be a V6 or V8. I drive a stick now and I love it,” he says.

Bill From Massachusetts

Bill Metras is in Pepperell, Massachusetts, and has owned a string of F-150s stretching back to 2001. He currently owns a 2017 with the EcoBoost engine. “I wasn’t sold on the 3.5 EcoBoost until I drove it. Plenty of power and much better fuel mileage than the 5.4-liter V-8,” he says. “I do plenty of home improvement projects, landscaping, hauling building supplies, mulch, wood pellets, etc… Anything smaller just wouldn’t cut it.” What he IS interested in is a truck with less stuff, like the electric running boards that he hates. “The technology in these things are just more to break, that a basic truck wouldn’t have.”

Small Trucks Have Big Appeal

2022 Ford Maverick/Image Credit: Ford

Eric From North Carolina & Bill From New Hampshire

If there was any trend we recognized it was how appealing a smaller truck was to these four dads. Eric Seeger is in Asheville, North Carolina. “I would like to get either a small truck like the Maverick (fingers crossed the Japanese brands choose to release a competitor) or either an EV or Hybrid wagon,” he says. “A stripper Ford Lightning also sounds very attractive, but I want to give them a couple years to work out the kinks before I drop $40k on something.” Bill Crovo in Hampstead, New Hampshire, was also interested in the Maverick, but with a stick, and only if he didn’t have to use it to haul a camper around.

Daniel From Massachusetts

Daniel Whynot from Holliston, Massachusetts, is just as bullish on the smaller truck. He drives a Toyota Highlander now, but is aghast at the fuel mileage, even working remotely. He’s seriously considering at least a hybrid, preferably a PHEV.  “When the Highlander has to be put out to pasture, I’d strongly consider a Ford Maverick, especially if I could get the stripped-down ‘cheap old Yankee’ trim level,” he says. “If other brands enter that market I’d consider them. I know I’d buy a hybrid at a minimum.”

Rob From Maryland

Rob Timm lives on a three-acre piece of property outside of Annapolis, Maryland. “I sorta need a truck. I need to be able to haul a couple of yards of mulch or a few sheets of plywood. Make a dump run. But for reasons both practical and personal, I have NO desire for some fuel-guzzling, hard to park, ridiculous Land Leviathan,” he says. “I want that rarest of vehicles in America: a modestly sized pickup that’s reasonably comfortable and gets reasonably good mileage at a reasonable price. Those are the reasons I’m looking hard at the Ford Maverick hybrid – it ticks all those boxes.”

Mick From Texas

Mick Hoagland is an airline mechanic in Fort Worth, Texas, and he’s also excited for the Maverick, or whatever else might be coming along to compete with it. “I want the Ford Maverick or some other inexpensive small pickup that has hybrid or EV options. I don’t need a big truck. I’m not a contractor going on job sites. Five to six bucks a gallon with a giant V8 is ludicrous,” he says.

It’s not insignificant that 20 percent of the responses we received expressed interest in a small truck, regardless of who built it. Currently, only two of these trucks exist. Given the interest and the scarcity of these trucks right now, we might be poised for an explosion in this segment. And based on the interest in hybrids, PHEVs, and battery electric vehicles – it won’t be surprising to see them come with an electrified powertrain.

Craig Fitzgerald began his automotive writing career in 1996, at AutoSite.com, one of the first online resources for car buyers. Over the years, he’s written for the Boston Globe, Forbes, and Hagerty. For seven years, he was the editor at Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, and today, he’s the automotive editor at Drive magazine. He’s dad to a son and daughter, and plays rude guitar in a garage band in Worcester, Massachusetts.